The Baltimore Ravens didn't dominate the Pittsburgh Steelers in their 13-10 Sunday night win, but they didn't have to—a few well-timed plays happened to come up big for the Ravens and lead them to the all-important AFC North victory.
All 13 of Baltimore's points came as a result of Steelers errors.
First, a Justin Tucker 26-yard field goal in the first quarter on a drive that took place because of a Pittsburgh fumble. Second, a Jacoby Jones punt return for a touchdown, also in the first quarter, that put Baltimore in the lead. Finally, another Tucker field goal, this time for 39 yards in the third quarter, resulting from an interception of Pittsburgh quarterback Byron Leftwich.
Let's take a closer look at these three pivotal plays for the Ravens and see how they went down.
3rd-and-10 at the Steelers' 14-yard line: Mike Wallace Fumbles
The Steelers were hoping to extend their drive and their lead here in the first quarter. Up 7-0 after a 31-yard touchdown run by Byron Leftwich, they needed to convert this third down to keep the ball moving.
Leftwich lines up in the shotgun. His ultimate target is receiver Mike Wallace, who is matched up with recently-signed cornerback Chris Johnson.
Wallace makes the catch and is headed for the first-down marker.
He's carrying the ball awkwardly, however, and Johnson sees an opportunity to tackle Wallace from behind and make a play on the football. He punches it out, saving the Ravens from another Steelers first down.
Safety Ed Reed is there to pick up the fumbled ball. The Ravens put together a short drive and, though it doesn't end in a touchdown, it does result in three points via a Justin Tucker field goal that ultimately proved invaluable as the game continued.
Jacoby Jones' Punt Return for a Touchdown
Heading into Week 11, Ravens kick and punt returner (and sometimes receiver) Jacoby Jones had two kick return touchdowns to his name, making him one of the more dangerous returners in the league. The Steelers saw first-hand just how dangerous he can be, with a routine first-quarter kick turning into seven points for the Ravens in just a matter of seconds.
The return starts out well, with Jones having the blocking in place to have, at the very least, a productive return.
A loose member of the Steelers' coverage team seems to have a bead on Jones. However, he's neutralized both by Jones' deceptive speed as well as a good block by linebacker Albert McClellan.
Next up to stop Jones are safety Will Allen and linebacker Jason Worilds. The faster Allen is neutralized by a block, while the slower Worilds is allowed free pursuit. He's joined by another Steeler.
That other Steeler (who is hard to identify via number) tries to make a tackle, but falls without contact, and Worilds is in no position to catch up now that Jones has turned on the turbo.
The only Pittsburgh player with a shot at holding Jones out of the end zone is Steelers punter Drew Butler. He misses on his last-ditch tackle and the Ravens add seven points to their total to take a three-point lead.
3rd-and-8 at the Baltimore 30-yard line: Byron Leftwich Intercepted
The final and ultimately game-clinching play for Baltimore came in the third quarter, when Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich—clearly in pain after taking numerous hits to his right shoulder and rib—couldn't connect with receiver Emmanuel Sanders and instead was picked off by Baltimore.
Sanders is set to cross into the middle of the field, which is covered by cornerback Corey Graham, who started in place of the injured Jimmy Smith.
Leftwich feels the pressure closing in on him and tries to get the ball out quickly, while also attempting to go deep. However, his injured ribs and shoulders limit the power he can put on the ball in the time he believed he had before getting hit by Baltimore's defenders, Terrell Suggs among them.
The ball doesn't go far enough—Sanders, who is behind Graham, could have had drive-extending first down at worst and a go-ahead touchdown at best should he have caught it. Instead, the ball heads right to Graham, who nabs the easy interception. This turned into another field-goal drive for Baltimore, which extended the lead to six points.
The Ravens ultimately won, 13-10.
In a game this closely fought, with both offenses struggling to move the ball, plays like these turnovers and the punt return are even more crucial. The Ravens, like the Steelers, didn't put up many big plays, but the ones they did make ultimately resulted in a Baltimore win.
It's important that turnovers result in points—whether three or seven—and because the Ravens capitalized on these opportunities, it made all the difference against their biggest divisional rival.